Corps de l’article

Climate change research in the Arctic has become increasingly interdisciplinary and intercultural in character, as exemplified in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports and in many of the IPY (International Polar Year) projects. Many research funding programs even have made the documentation and inclusion of Indigenous knowledge and the sharing of data with local communities obligatory. Yet most attempts at crossing over between various kinds of knowledge and communities remain unsatisfactory. Communication only goes so far. Often, after nodding politely at each other, dialogues reach a space of silence where we seem to feel that we have little left to say to each other, whether as scientists, Indigenous peoples, anthropologists, religious leaders, economists, or policy makers.

To understand how perceptions of “climate” shape the current ways of dealing with “climate change” Leduc brings Western and Inuit perspectives on climate into a dialogue in his study Climate Culture Change: Inuit and Western Dialogues with a Warming North. Analysing Indigenous knowledge, the current market-oriented Canadian climate change politics, and the science and theologies it references he gains insights into the history, structures, and ethics of the gateways into this space of silence at play—a vacuum of dialogue all too easily filled by power. Finding that “climate research’s interdisciplinarity and its intercultural scope is [often] being restricted by scientific and economic assumptions” (p. 70), he discusses how the currently politically dominant climate-change-denying discourses promote certain kinds of knowledge, the choice of which is “not objective and ethically neutral but reflect powerful cultural interests and predispositions” (p. 130).

This analysis provides critical insights not only into the world of politics but more importantly into the Western theological and philosophical history of the ideology of the “wasteland” operative in the continuing processes of industrialisation. This “wasteland theology” supports the economising perspective on the environment that is prevalent in current Canadian and, more broadly, North American climate-change-downplaying or -denying policy-making. Leduc shows how this economisation of the environment is not an isolated realm of values, but rather has strong and historically grown allies in the deterministic understanding of scientific knowledge often applied by climate change deniers and in the theologies expressed by certain fundamental Christian communities that are supportive of a free market economy. Indeed, such positions have become an identity marker in Canadian and United States politics, especially for those who refuse to accept humanity’s role in bringing about climate change. In his careful and probing analysis, Leduc shows convincingly how this particular Western perspective is currently driving the globally precariously dawdling political responses to climate change and scientific research.

Leduc is careful to point out, however, that the problem is not the involvement of economics, science, and religion in processes of policy-making—on the contrary, he advocates their inclusion. The problem is the kind of knowledge that many politicians in power seem to reference. The Inuit notion of silatuniq, which Leduc approximates in translation with notions such as “wisdom, intimate knowledge of the environment and of ourselves within it,” proposes the use of contextualised and relational knowledge and acknowledges the uncontrollability of the environment. In contrast, in Western contexts decontextualised, principle-driven, and abstracted knowledge is referenced. This kind of knowledge not only excludes a wide array of varied human experiences, knowledge, and relationships with the environment, but is actually decoupled from any notion of people or earth mattering in a situation in which both are actually involved and impacted.

Leduc also finds that those voices doubting the reality of anthropogenic climate change work with a deterministic understanding of science that provides simple and reliable answers rather than recognising the process by which scientific knowledge evolves. A deterministic understanding of science does not allow for the uncertainty that marks the dynamic natural processes of the earth—an uncertainty acknowledged by most members of the scientific community as well as in many cultures, where it is often expressed in their religious views. Climate Culture Change, therefore, is not only a scientific book but also a deeply political one. Leduc’s ecology is that of the oikos, the “household” of the earth with its natural systems, living beings, and human cultures interconnected in a complex tapestry of ecological, social, historic, spiritual, cultural, ethical, and power relationships. Using data and insights from intensive correspondence with Inuit philosopher Jaypeetee Arnakak, from a two-day climate change workshop in Chesterfield Inlet, from a review of the literature, from his own Arctic living experiences, and from studies in theology and philosophy, he argues for a holistic approach to climate change in the West.

Emphasising that climate change does not and will not take place in a slow even progression but rather in leaps and bounds, all faculties, all kinds of knowledge, and all ways of relating to the world are needed to deal with it—including relationships to higher powers that remind people of a world larger than themselves, their economic wants, and their need for a sense of control provided by a rational mind. Instead of continuously overwriting Indigenous with Western knowledge in the Canadian context, Leduc advocates that we learn how to benefit from a more integrated approach that interconnects science, religion, politics, economy, and ethics of a global conscience in order to situate our dealings with climate change in the holistic ecological niche that we as humans occupy amidst the household of the earth. We have learned that this niche cannot support a fuel-dependent lifestyle, unchecked economic growth, and increasing consumption—whether the proponents of this ideology are currently in power or not. And while salient and differing perspectives on this issue of climate change in their very multiplicity (and complexity) may well resist integration, they call for—at the very least—conversation. Leduc’s sharp and insightful cultural and ecological analysis of the current climate change policy crisis in North America and elsewhere is a much needed publication post-Copenhagen.